One of the leading forces behind campaigns progressing equality and anti-discrimination legislation in Guernsey says she will be removing herself from all public social media following heavy criticism of one aspect of recent campaign material.
The use of a hashtag highlighting strong feelings regarding one of the amendments lodged against the Discrimination Prevention (Guernsey) Ordinance, and a comment made by one woman in an independent capacity, and not representing any group, has caused a storm.
Reacting to the furore, Karen Blanchford has said: "I have made the decision to leave Twitter after this debate. It’s time to hand over the baton. As many know I’ve resigned from the Guernsey Disability Alliance, and will step back from Equality Guernsey except training.
"We have been let down & yesterdays debate turned on the charity/umbrella group."
She was referring to the debate at the outset of this week's States meeting, which includes the scheduled approval of the anti - discrimination legislation.
A number of amendments have been lodged against it, but the one causing much debate is listed eighth on the States running order, for the meeting which is continuing today.
The GDA and Equality Guernsey have been proactively meeting with small businesses, business groups and influencers to better understand their concerns around the Discrimination Legislation and reassure where possible. Here’s a summary. Get in touch if you have concerns. pic.twitter.com/otXc8eR93m— Disability Alliance (@GDA_Disability) September 25, 2022
The amendment itself asks for small businesses, of five employees or fewer, to be exempt from the new anti-discrimination laws when they come in. Campaigners for the legislation have called amendment 8 a "wrecking ball", "destructive" and "unjust", warning it will mean thousands of businesses won't have to comply with the law.
Equality Guernsey, Guernsey Disability Alliance, Guernsey Employment Trust, and Liberate are among the organisations which have called for amendment 8 to be withdrawn.
To this end, protest slogans were used including #withdrawamendment8 and #h8te .
These slogans were used in promotional material including alongside pictures of Deputies Chris Blin and David De Lisle, who proposed and seconded the amendment. Deputy Carl Meerveld was also included in the same poster as he has been seen as a co-ordinator of some of the amendments against the Prevention of Discrimination Ordinance.
You asked for a petition, so here it is! #WithdrawAmendment8#H8TE— Liberate HQ (@LiberateHQ) September 24, 2022
Sign to support the withdrawal of Amendment 8 to the anti discrimination legislation, it excludes disabled people and carers from having the same standard of life to everyone else.https://t.co/A3LHnv2V3o pic.twitter.com/mBhJKLxt2z
The campaign material above, and the wider use of the #h8te slogan have been interpreted by some as bullying behaviour towards the three named deputies, and discriminatory in itself because it is calling on others to denounce them for their opinions.
The groups and individuals involved in the co-ordinated campaigning over recent weeks have sought to explain that the messaging was aimed at the 'hate' for the amendment itself, and not for the politicians behind it.
Can we please be very clear about something. Amendment 8 is a disgrace to #Guernsey it discriminates against 6,000 carers & 13,500 persons with disabilities. We ‘hate’ amendment 8. It is not aimed at any person. It’s strong & marketing. Apologies if it was taken otherwise. pic.twitter.com/VmbsDYQ3li— EqualityGsy (@EqualityGsy) September 26, 2022
Jayne Ozanne, a well known, national campaigner for equal rights, was quoted in one media report as saying: "it is time the white privileged man's bubble is burst.
This was interpreted by Deputy Peter Ferbrache, during yesterday's debate, as being a comment made on behalf of Equality Guernsey. She has explained via social media that it was not, and it was her personal opinion alone.
Citing that quote, in debate on a different amendment to the legislation, Deputy Ferbrache criticised the Committee for Employment and Social Security for not protecting States Members against this abuse.
He said: "Equality Guernsey has posted this today: 'It's time the white privileged man's bubble is burst'
"What on earth does that mean? How intolerant and discriminatory and abusive is that?
"And yet I've not heard Deputy [Peter] Roffey [Committee for Employment and Social Security President] in any of his speeches or any of the other members of the Committee get up and say 'we abhor that, we are against that, we don't like that kind of communication'. Therefore, in this instance, I'm very sorry to say that I don't trust the Committee and I'll be voting for the amendment."
Deputy Roffey later expressed his concern on Twitter, saying he was unaware of the detail of the campaign and it was not his responsibility regardless, even though he is also 'against amendment 8'.
1. Shocked when the president of P+R suddenly announced he didn't trust my committee. What had we done? Seems I hadn't condemned some on-line content from a campaign group about which I knew little. Did they say they hated amendment 8? If so I don't blame them. Its a stinker.— Peter John "Rufus" Roffey (@PeterRoffey5) September 28, 2022
The fall out from the #h8te slogan has claimed the social media confidence of campaigner Ms Blanchford however.
Ms Blanchford, who has been at the forefront of campaigning for discrimination legislation to be brought in for eight years, has said she won't be using social media publicly in the same way any longer.
I have made the decision to leave Twitter after this debate. It’s time to hand over the baton. As many know I’ve resigned from the GDA, and will step back from Equality Guernsey except training. We have been let down & yesterdays debate turned on the charity/umbrella group.— Karen Blanchford (@blanchfordkgsy) September 29, 2022
Ms Blanchford has been involved with the Guernsey Disability Alliance and Equality Guernsey, but was recently confirmed as the new manager at GROW Limited, a role she will be taking up in the new year.
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